Make sure their diet is up to scratch…
Come lambing season, it’s vital to ensure your flock receives the correct nutrition.
Our ewes go through condition scoring to help us calculate their dietary needs. Whilst scanning them halfway through their pregnancy, we’ll feel along their spine. They’ll each receive a score between one (being very skinny) and five (being very fat). If the ewes are very lean, we put them into a pen where they get extra food. Here you’ll also find the ewes carrying triplets, who need a lot more grub than a ewe that’s carrying a single.
You want the lambs to be born at an optimum size, so the ewe can give birth to them easily. Simultaneously, you want the lambs born big enough and strong enough to get up to their feet and then look for the colostrum.
When checking the condition of a ewe, it’s also important to consider if she’ll have enough energy to provide good quality colostrum once she’s produced her lamb.
Her colostrum, her milk, is absolutely essential.
It contains antibodies that protect the lamb from any bugs and diseases it might pick up in the lambing shed. The quality of that colostrum is also very important and it does vary. We use a refractometer to measure that quality. This is a tool where you take some colostrum from the ewe, put a few drops onto the slide and then look through the lens. Pointing the device towards a strong light source will result in a line appearing, indicating the quality against the central guide.
If the quality is good and she’s got plenty of it, all is fine.
If the results are poor across a number of ewes, then you may have to do something about their diet, their nutrition. Perhaps add in some extra beans, more protein, those sorts of things, to help lift the quality and level of the colostrum.
We’re feeding our pregnant ewes a total measured ration (TMR), which is made up of a number of different things.
Firstly, straw, which is a byproduct of the barley beans which we grow on the farm. Then silage, a grass that’s cut during the summer and then stored in anaerobic conditions. We’ll also add minerals and molasses, then over a few months it pickles. So it’s a total measured ration, a complete balanced diet, containing everything our ewes need.
For those who don’t have the ability to grow silage or have an arable farm, you can buy-in hay for your ewes as well as sheep nuts. Sheep nuts would contain similar minerals, barley and proteins and you can buy them from any sheep feed supplier.